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The Montana Legislature: What's It to Me?

From "A Student's Guide to the Montana Legislature."

Maybe you’re wondering: What do I care about the Montana Legislature? It has nothing to do with my life, right?

Well, have you ever asked yourself these questions:

• Do I have to go to school?
• When can I drive a car?
• How old do I have to be to get a job?
• Does my pet have to have a rabies shot?

The answers to all of these questions are determined by law. And laws are what the Montana Legislature exists to create.

So the Montana Legislature is not some obscure and meaningless organization. It makes decisions that affect every Montanan, every day — and that includes you. As you finish school, get a job, and perhaps have a family, you’ll notice its impact on your life more and more.

That’s why it’s important to understand how the Legislature works and how you, as a citizen, can influence what it does.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even decide one day to serve as a legislator yourself! The Montana Legislature is a citizen legislature. Its members are ordinary citizens — like you — who are elected to serve the public part-time in addition to their regular jobs.

At the very least, you’ll one day be old enough to help elect the people who serve in the Legislature. All citizens, once they turn 18, have the right to vote for whomever they choose to represent them. In our system of government, called a “representative democracy,” the majority makes the decisions, but the rights of the minority are protected by law.

Because we all tend to spend time with people who think like we do, it’s easy to forget that we don’t all think alike. It’s the job of the Legislature to help find common ground among different opinions and ideas. It’s the job of the Legislature to pass laws that benefit the largest number of people possible.

* * *

For further discussion:

1. What is a “representative democracy?”
2. Do you plan to vote once you turn 18? Why or why not?
3. What would Montana be like if the state had no laws?

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Last Modified:
7/1/2008 2:39:12 PM